Bekka Ross Russell

Orphanages Aren’t the Enemy: Family-Based Care Reform in Tanzania

Bekka Ross Russell (she/her) – founder and Executive Director of The Small Things, an NGO working with orphaned and vulnerable children and their families in Tanzania, East Africa. The Small Things integrates a comprehensive family preservation program with high-quality, loving, community-based residential care. That means keeping children in homes where they belong, caring for them when their families can’t, and doing all that we can to reunify children in our care with relatives.

Bekka is also the founder of the Families and Futures Coalition of Tanzania (, a coalition of organizations working together to democratize and decolonize access to high-quality trainings and practical support, in order to help grassroots organizations improve their quality of care and move toward family-first models. The coalition helps local organizations to tackle challenges including program development, monitoring and evaluation, case management, access to specialist services, and overall capacity building. 

Bekka is mom to her beloved kids Zawadi and Simon, adopted from Tanzania, and can usually be found surrounded by her foster children and the amazing kids at TST’s children’s village. She is the recipient of BA and BFA degrees, author of “Gender and Jewelry: A Feminist Analysis,” and has also completed an MPA in International Development at the London School of Economics, focusing on African child welfare systems.  She is deeply passionate about using rigorous, evidence-based methodologies to create opportunities for kids and families to climb out of poverty, and believes that every small act matters in the service of great love and sustainable change. 

We are grateful to Shaun Finn Cinematography and 2 Mountains Lodge for their help in creating this video.